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Innovative aquaponics facility in Tampa Bay to grow produce, farm fish

Looking for a place where you could get fresh organic fish, as well as produce free of chemicals and fertilizers here in the Tampa Bay area? Now, what if these fish and produce would come from a building and not the ocean or farm land?
 
That is the innovative concept behind Global Aquaponic Inc. (GAI). It is a concept that the company wants to bring to the Tampa Bay area..

The specific location has not been yet determined.
 
If you have ever taken a ride through ‘The Land’ exhibit in EPCOT at the Walt Disney World resort, you may have seen how similar systems work. Basically, it is an alternative way to grow produce and farm fish in a controlled environment without the use of pesticides.
 
“Aquaponics uses up to 90 percent less water than traditional soil-based farming and therefore preserves our fresh water,” Bradshaw says. “Chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are poisonous to our environment; therefore we do not use any of those.”
 
Bradshaw goes on to say that although there is no start date as of yet, the facility can be completed and fully producing in one year from start to finish.  Which also means green job creation for the area.
 
“The aquaponics system will be comprised of two separate entities: a fish facility and a greenhouse,” he says. The fish facility will require two dedicated employees, a manager and an assistant manager, as well as one full-time employee. The greenhouse will require 12 to 24 full-time employees for the greenhouse bays.”
 
For more information on the company, visit their website.

Downtown St. Petersburg residential boom continues

The residential real estate boom in downtown St. Petersburg is going strong as two new buildings get ready to rise along the ever growing skyline.

This month the NRP Group, which built Beacon 430 on Third Avenue, started construction on a nine-story residential building. Situated across the street from the Tampa Bay Times building, the new structure will have an internal parking garage for residents and 200 spots for Tampa Bay Times employees.  

“This will be a luxury residential building with 366 units,” says Kurt Kehoe, VP of the NRP Group, LLC.

Kehoe says the building, which has yet to be named, will have studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The units range from 570 square feet to over 1,550 square feet.

“There is very little property that can be developed in the business district of St. Petersburg, but we wanted to move on this as soon as possible,” he says. There is a lot of interest in downtown with the walkability so it made a lot of sense to move on this property when we did.”

 The building will have a rooftop pool with views facing East toward Tampa Bay, as well as a rooftop fitness area and club room adjacent to the pool.

“We did a secondary pool in the courtyard that will be ground level that will have large sitting areas, a lounge and another club area.”

Construction is expected to be completed in early 2018.

A few blocks away from the NRP project, another building is under construction, which is expected to be completed this year.

AER St. Petersburg is a luxury apartment tower with 18 stories and 358-units. The $85-million project features 600-square-foot studios to 1,500-square-foot three-bedroom units.

Amenities at AER include interactive audio visual and social media venues, fitness center, business center, pool, clubroom with exhibition kitchen, observation deck and on-site parking garage.

Golfers tee up at newly renovated courses around Tampa Bay

As the weather cools, and snowbirds and year-long residents alike get ready to hit the tees, Tampa Bay area golf courses are sprucing up their greens for tee time.
 
Rocky Point Golf Course
 
Golfers are now able to enjoy the newly renovated Rocky Point golf course in Tampa, as it reopened last week, after a seven-month renovation to the course.
 
“The major renovation includes all new TiFEagle greens, new tee boxes, Celebration Bermuda grass that surrounds the new greenside and fairway bunkers,” says Bobby Silvest of the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA), which operates the course for the city. “The renovation also includes enhanced features, such as new retaining walls and landscaping.”
 
Silvest says these renovation plans have been years in the making. The $700,000 investment to the course is expected to bring in more traffic.
 
“All of these changes combine to make Rocky Point a course that is challenging and enjoyable, as well as very aesthetically pleasing.”
 
Copperhead at Innisbrook

The PGA golf course in Palm Harbor, best known for hosting the annual Valspar Championship, is scrambling to complete its $4.5-million restoration project before the big event in March 2016.

Renovations to Copperhead golf course include replacing all 18 greens and fairways with new grass, as well as a new drainage system, and improvements to sand traps. Wadsworth Golf Construction Company was brought in to do the mammoth project and is also installing a state-of-the-art sprinkler system that will conserve water usage.

Twin Brooks Golf Course

Located in St. Petersburg, south of downtown, Twin Brooks reopened recently after its $1.5 million-renovation. The course, which has been under city ownership for more than 40 years, had its grand opening celebration in November.

Through its renovations, the design went from an 18-hole course, to a 9-hole, par three course, which offers golfers more yardage and larger putting space. A new drainage system was installed, as well as a 7,000-square-foot platinum Paspalum putting green and a covered driving range.  

“The goal was to create a more open course that is playable and enjoyable for golfers of all levels, with quality putting surfaces, for a great value,” stated Jeff Hollis, St. Petersburg Golf Courses director in a news release from the city. “An improved practice area, along with a covered driving range tee will make for one of the finest practice facilities in Pinellas County.”

SPC receives funding for Bay Pines STEM Learning Center

With funding from the state in the amount of $2.5 million, St. Petersburg College (SPC) is building a new learning center for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

Last year, SPC received money to fund the new building from the Florida Legislature Public Education Capital Outlay to complete the college's Bay Pines STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Learning Center in the Madiera Beach area. It is close to both the Bay Pines VA Hospital and Madiera Beach Fundamental School.

The $4.7 million building will serve many purposes for the community.

“The center will have SPC classes, professional development activities for Pinellas County school teachers and others, community group activities, marine and environmental independent research being carried out by SPC students, secondary school students, and students from other colleges around the area,” says John Chapin, Dean of natural sciences at SPC. “It will also be the site for summer camps for various groups underserved in the STEM areas, and a site to partner with other colleges/universities in the area on STEM related projects.”

According to Chapin, SPC's Bay Pines STEM Learning Center will be 10,000-square-feet. It will have two multipurpose lab rooms each holding 24 students, three independent research areas and one large multipurpose room that will seat up to 100 people.

“The lab rooms are very flexible and will support both lab-based and classroom-based activities.”

The building is scheduled to undergo construction in December and is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

St. Pete College invests in St. Peterburg's midtown

The future looks brighter for the mid-town area of downtown St. Petersburg with the purchase of two large buildings by St. Petersburg College (SPC). The $1.2 million investment has been years in the making, and aims to help reinvigorate the struggling neighborhood by providing scholarships and economic opportunity to public housing residents.

“The purchases will help stabilize the neighborhood,” says Bill Law, President of SPC since 2010.

Law intends to turn both structures into community resources for the area, which is seeing a rebirth of economic activity. One of the buildings, currently known as the Cecil B. Keene Center for Achievement, is a 10,556-square-foot structure located at 22nd Street South; the other an 11,136-square-foot gymnasium at 1201 22nd Street South. Both were previously owned by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.

As for plans for the future of the two buildings, that is still to be decided.

“People in mid-town have been waiting to get this done, so we can take the next steps,” says Law. “SPC will revisit the community dialogues it's been having with the midtown community. Our goal is to present our Board of Trustees with new ideas on next steps to support the community within the next 60 to 90 days.”

As part of the agreement to purchase the buildings from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, SPC agreed to provide five students from public housing with $1,000 scholarships each per year for 30 years to enroll at SPC. The college also agreed to provide 10 $250 textbook scholarships per year for 30 years and five surplus computers per year for 30 years to public housing residents enrolled at SPC.

Priatek Plaza name stands tall in St. Pete

One of the most notable high-rise commercial buildings in downtown St. Petersburg has been renamed. One Progress Plaza is now known as Priatek Plaza.
 
The building is named after one of the tenants, Priatek, a performance-based digital signage company.
 
Known for its “UGot2Play” kiosks, which can be found in malls, stores and airports, the media company offers clients advertising through prize promotions via the kiosks.
 
“I came up with the name Priatek as sort of an acronym for prize and advertising technologies,” says Milind Bharvirkar, president of Priatek. “Also, Pria, which is my second daughter’s first name, means beloved, so when you put it together Priatek really means beloved technology.”
 
For Bharvirkar it really is beloved technology, as Priatek was a brainchild built out of his home in Lutz and now is a successful business venture that employs 15 people and occupies 8,000-square-feet on the tower’s 23rd floor.
 
So why did Bharvirkar choose St. Petersburg for his headquarters? The answer is simple: competition and job candidates.
 
“The Tampa Bay area is a media mecca with Nielsen, HSN and Clear Channel, to name a few,” he says. It gives us the opportunity to compete and even partner with these companies. Also, there is a tech movement happening in this area, and with that brings great talent.”
 
Talent is something that Bharvirkar will be looking for as he plans to expand his empire. He says the space where the company currently resides can accommodate up to 50 people, which means adding to the headcount will not be an issue.
 
“I don’t have a timeline at this point, we will make adjustments and hire when we need to, however I do foresee us growing and hiring in the near future,” he says. “As we grow, there will be a need for jobs here in engineering, media, sales, operations and administration. Job creation is definitely on the horizon.”

New England style brownstones being built in St. Petersburg

If you are in a New York state of mind but reside in the sunshine state, the Brownstones of St. Petersburg offer an appealing alternative designed for buyers in search of a unique housing option.

“Being from New York myself, I know there are a lot of people who live here, who are originally from New York and Boston, so I figured why not bring brownstones to St. Pete,” says Steve Gianfilippo, owner and founder of the Brownstone of St. Petersburg.

In addition to 4,000-square-feet of living space, homeowners can also enjoy a detached garage with an apartment, which allows owners the option to rent out space if they would like.

“The real selling point is the apartment over the garage to rent out if buyers wish, this is an option you won’t find in a condo community,” Gianfilppo says. “On top of that, you don’t have the exorbitant condo fees and assessments that come with living in a condo building downtown. Providing that option for people really differentiates us from the other properties being built in the area.”

The main buildings of the brownstones are four-stories, each level approximately 800 square feet, and each unit has its own elevator. The properties are one block from walkable Beach Drive's restaurants, museums and shops.

“Being in downtown, and so close to Beach Drive, buyers will really get to experience the urban lifestyle,” Gianfilppo says.

Gianfilppo is very familiar with the area, having his hands on various projects in and around downtown St. Petersburg, including Cordova Inn and Station House restaurant as well as the Barefoot Beach Hotel in Madiera Beach.

The brownstones will be on the market ranging in price from $1.4 million to $1.8 million, depending on the proximity of the property to Beach Drive.

For more information on the Brownstones of St. Petersburg, visit their website.

Tampa Bay area college campuses create new spaces for start of school

It's that time of year when college students trade in their sunscreen and towels for pens and paper (writing enhances memory!) and hit the books: yep, it’s back to learning, lectures and labs.

In preparation for the fall semester and upcoming school year, local colleges and universities are finishing up construction and campus improvements just in time for students to take their seats.

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) is opening up a new science building on its SouthShore campus. The new $9.8 million building features laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices.

“The new building allows us to give students the classes they need and want,” says Dr. Allen Witt, HCC SouthShore Campus President. “Our campus is disproportionately higher in the sciences, especially in the biological sciences, with students going on to paths in nursing, medical and other health-related sciences, so this building gives us the capability to offer more classes in those disciplines.”

The LEED-certified building is two stories tall and encompasses over 36,000-square-feet. Witt says he is proud to say that the faculty was very involved in the construction process.

“The building process was unusual in that the teachers were involved every step of the way,” he says. “It really is a building built by teachers for teachers. Black boards fill two walls in order to complete mathematical equations, small windows were used so there wouldn’t be too much light for the use of projectors and computers, students enter from the back of the classroom so as not to disrupt the class, they thought of everything.”

Over at the University of Tampa (UT), there is also a new building opening for the fall. The Innovation and Collaboration building is a multipurpose space that includes classrooms, laboratories, faculty offices, an entrepreneurship center, a Starbucks coffee shop, meeting and study areas and a headquarters for campus safety.

“As the university’s student population has increased, so have the needs for academic and administrative space, as well as space for students to study and socialize, says Eric Cardenas, director of public information and publications for the University of Tampa. “Also, our entrepreneurship program has grown and become more nationally renowned and multifaceted, so it was determined that it needed a dedicated space, this building addresses those needs.”

UT’s Innovation and Collaboration building is a candidate for LEED Silver certification.

McKay Hall at UT also got a makeover this summer, and renovations will be completed in time for the fall semester. The residence hall, which was built in the late 1950s, received several improvements including new restrooms, an upgraded common room and a second laundry room.

Eckerd College also renovated its residence complexes, and built a new sailing center on Boca Ciega Bay. The $1.6 million Doyle Sailing Center includes floating docks with 26 slips. Eckerd’s sailing team is comprised of 32 members.

New townhomes coming to Downtown St. Petersburg

There has been a lot of buzz about rising condos and apartments in downtown St. Petersburg, but for those interested in a different housing option, Regent Lane townhomes may be the cat's meow.

These new construction luxury townhomes are in a small private gated community with 20 units total. Each townhome is four-stories with a British mews theme, and over 2,300-square-feet of living space. The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath residencies each feature a private rooftop deck terrace.

With the property located less than two blocks away from Beach Drive, residents of Regent Lane can also enjoy all that downtown St. Petersburg has to offer, and having it all within walking distance.

“I believe the potential for an urban lifestyle that has been established in downtown St. Pete will be easily accessible to the homeowners of my project,” says Neil Rauenhorst, president of NJR properties investment, LLC.

While Regent Lane is unique in its design, and its townhome offerings, it joins a long list of residential properties coming to downtown St. Petersburg including: Bliss Over Beach Drive, Beacon 430, The Salvador, The Hermitage and One St. Petersburg.

Rauenhorst says what sets his project apart from the others is the townhome community.

“It’s a secured gated community, with private space for each homeowner,” he says. “Complete with a two-car garage, and private elevator.”

Reservations for Regent Lane are being taken now; construction is expected to be completed in summer 2016.

To view floor plans, make a reservation or get more information, visit Regent Lane’s website.

Old Raytheon site in St. Pete purchased

The former Raytheon site in St. Petersburg that has been vacant for years has been purchased, and will be redeveloped into retail, multi-family housing or mixed use, as the Commercial Development Company (CDC), which bought the 29-acres of land makes final plans for its use.

Commercial Development Company has a strong track record of bringing underutilized sites back to productive use,” says John Kowalik of CDC.  

While the company is eager to get started on the project, environmental issues that have plagued the site had to be dealt with first. According to Kowalik, Raytheon has remediated the issues, making the site suitable for redevelopment.

In order to maintain environmental compliance, Raytheon will also remain on site of the property to ensure that the groundwater treatment and recovery system (GRTS) they installed in 2014 operates efficiently.

The property located between Tyrone Square Mall and the Azalea Park neighborhoods is densely populated, which Kowalik says is great for vertical development. The company has already been contacted by potential tenants and developers showing interest in the property.

While plans for what exactly will be going in the area will not be determined for another few months, Kowalik says the area is prime for even more growth, which is why the company chose to invest.

“We seek to invest in areas where we see the most potential for growth, and the St. Petersburg market is already in a growth-phase and we are eager to see the economic and social benefits this redevelopment brings to the area.  

Pinellas County plans to replace aging bridges

Many of us drive across the local bridges on a daily basis, whether going to work, school or leisure, without a second thought to when they were built or what condition they might be in today. Pinellas County government, however, is taking into consideration the aging infrastructure of local bridges and working toward a solution for improvement.

“We have a systematic rating for bridges in Pinellas County, which we monitor pretty closely,” says Mary Burrell, Public Information Manager for Pinellas County.

Burrell says two bridges in particular are on the county’s radar: San Martin Boulevard Bridge in St. Petersburg, and the Dunedin Causeway. Both bridges were built in the early 1960s, with  life expectancy of about 50 years. Now that time is running out, it is time to address the aging spans.

“The San Martin bridge has some structural rating deficiencies that warrant it being evaluated for future considerations, she says. “It has been rehabilitated over the years and now it is time to decide whether rehab or replacement is warranted.”

Burrell goes on to say that while there are rating deficiencies, construction on the bridge would be no sooner than 2018 due to a lack of funding.

“We are in the study phase, it’s an 18-month study, and the purpose of that is to seek funding from the highway administration. We currently have what could be considered matching funds from ‘Penny from Pinellas’ county funding for fiscal year 2018 and 2019, which is very much predicated on our ability to obtain matching funds from federal highway administrations.”

As for the Dunedin Causeway, it is going through the same process, although Burrell says it is moving approximately six months ahead.

“With the new technology available today, we are shooting for a life expectancy of about 75 years, compared to 50 as when these bridges were built,” she says. “The bridges are safe, there are just some ratings that warrant it to be in our radar, and make sure we have funding in place when timing is appropriate.”

NorthStar Bank opens new branches in South Tampa, downtown St. Pete

Technology has changed so much of what we do, and how we do it, including banking. For those, who desire or need to have the face-to-face exchanges with another human being, NorthStar Bank is opening up two additional branches.

The bank has had a presence in Tampa since it opened its main office in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa back in 2007. Today, NorthStar employs approximately 40 people with another office in Belleair Bluffs, and two new spaces: a branch on MacDill Avenue in Tampa and a loan production office in downtown St. Petersburg.

“The south Tampa branch is set to open in August,” says David Stone, President and CEO of NorthStar Bank. “We just opened the St. Petersburg office earlier this month.”

Stone says the St. Petersburg office will be strictly a loan production office, meaning no deposits can be taken; only business involving loan activity will occur. The loans will mostly be commercial loans for business owners, although home and auto loans will be offered.

“We have been debating whether to have a presence in the St. Pete market, and we decided it would make sense to have a loan production office because it’s a smaller investment to begin with,” Stone says. “A full service branch, you are looking at 2- to 3-million dollars.”

While the bank does offer online banking, Stone says it is important that customers get human contact.

“I’m sure you have read a lot of about branches closing with the bigger banks. That doesn’t mean there is not a need for a brick-and-mortar presence. The type of customers that we target want to talk with somebody,'' Stone continues. "We target professionals, doctors, lawyers, accountants, CPAs, those who have established small businesses, so when they have a banking need, it’s a little bit more complex than something you can do over a machine. That is why a face-to-face relationship is so important.”
 

Website ranks Tampa Bay area near top on 5 lists

Local residents have something to cheer about as the recently released 2015 Best Places to Live rankings by Niche places the Tampa Bay area on five of the website’s top lists.

Niche, which uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau as well as data taken from residents, measures factors such as livability, local schools, safety, jobs and housing in cities across the country.

“We collect our data from the U.S. Census and National Center for Education Statistics, which helps us define and classify cities and towns", says Alex Caffee, business and marketing analyst. “We also get survey data from our users who log onto our site and give feedback on their community, which also makes up part of our data set.”

So how did the Tampa Bay area measure up?
  • Oldsmar came in #11 on the list’s ‘best suburb to buy a house in Florida’
  • South Highpoint (#1) and Bradenton Beach (#3) for ‘suburbs with the easiest commute in Florida’
  • South Highpoint came in at #51 on the national list of ‘easiest commutes in America’
  • Oldsmar wins again with its #14 ranking for ‘best suburb to raise a family in Florida’
  • Hillsborough County takes the honor for its #10 ranking for ‘best counties to raise a family in Florida’
The site asks members to assess their communities by answering questions on topics ranging from crime rates and school ratings to grocery stores and libraries.

“Niche.com helps people decide where they are going to go next in life,” Caffee says. “We want to help individuals and families decide where they want to live, and assist them with that decision by giving them the data.”

Bliss: Unique condo sets itself apart from others in St. Pete

Soon to be overlooking Beach Drive in St. Pete, a unique 18-story condo building is under construction, and will join a growing list of apartments and condominiums popping up in the city.

Bliss joins other developments including ONE St. Petersburg, The Salvador, Rowland Place, Beacon 430 and The Hermitage.

Unlike its counterparts, which are comprised of up to 250 residences, Bliss will have just 29 units. According to Dave Traynor, VP at Smith and Associates Real Estate, there is a great benefit to having a small number of residents.

“There will only be two condos per floor,” he says. “At any neighboring wall you actually have about 30-feet of separation in between the condos, which is the stairwell and the elevator, which is very unique in the design. You have the benefits of a single-family home, while also having the benefits of a condo.”

Traynor says the building contains 28 units of 2,140-square-feet each with 3-bedrooms, and one two-story penthouse that is approximately 3,700-square-feet.

In addition to the unique layout of the building, there is another feature of Bliss that sets it apart from other condos.

“Bliss is the first condominium in the Tampa Bay area to have a vehicular elevator, where an elevator will take your car to your parking space in the parking garage,” Traynor says.

The building also features a sky lounge with a viewing terrace, as well as a fitness center and pool on the ground level.

The average price of a condo unit in Bliss is just over $1 million, and currently there are still three residencies available. Construction is underway, and is expected to be completed by end of 2016.

Bliss' home address will be 330 Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.

BLUE Ocean Film Festival opens new headquarters in St. Pete

As waves lap the Gulf of Mexico shoreline less than two miles away, the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit opens its new global headquarters in the heart of St. Pete. The main office at 646 2nd Ave. S. is already abuzz with activities surrounding preparations for the city to host the 2016 BLUE Ocean Film Festival.

The annual festival sheds light on problems plaguing the world's oceans and solutions for conservation by showcasing the best in ocean filmmaking and scientific research. The seven-day event moved to St. Petersburg in 2014 from Monterey CA, will be hosted by the government of Prince Albert II in Monaco in November 2015 and then will return to St. Pete in November 2016.

The nonprofit works year-round to educate people on the importance of ocean life and conservation. From summits and conferences to workshops and educational outreach programs, the organization tries to teach as many populations as possible.

“It’s always been a part of our long-term strategy to use film as a tool to raise awareness,” says Debbie Kinder, CEO and co-Founder of BLUE Ocean. “We have always wanted to have workshops, activities and mentoring to show that conservation work is a great career option.”

The organization’s “Blue on Tour” program travels the world showcasing its films and engaging conversations on the global value of the oceans.

“We need one strong home base and St. Pete is it,” Kinder says. “We would love for BLUE to be associated with St. Pete the way that Sundance is associated with Park City.”

The 6,000-square-foot headquarters that Kinder refers to as ''home base'' is being leased, though the nonprofit is getting a temporary break on rent.

“There is a long-term lease, however, early on there are no rent payments due,” says Robert Glaser, President and CEO of Smith and Associates. Glaser did minor renovations on the property, although he says the building was in excellent shape and did not need much done. Long-term, when the festival is more financially sound, he anticipates collecting rent for use of the building.
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